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County Civil FAQ's - Contents
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County Civil Cases - CC top
What is a County Civil case?

A County Civil case is any civil matter that falls within the jurisdiction of County Court. Detail
may be found in Chapter 34 of the Florida Statutes. County Civil cases include several different
types of matters:

  • Small Claims
    Disputes involving money damages where the amount at issue does not exceed
    $5,000
    excluding costs, interest and attorney fees. Click here for more information.
  • Replevins
    Disputes involving property that someone will not return. Click here for more information.
  • Civil Actions
    Civil Lawsuits not within Small Claims jurisdiction where the amount at issue does not
    exceed $15,000
    excluding costs, interest and attorney's fees.
    ***Note: Those civil lawsuits where the amount at issue exceeds $15,000 excluding
    costs, interest, and attorney's fees are within the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court.
  • Landlord / Tenant Evictions
    Click here for more information.

How do I file a Civil or Equity Action (up to $15,000)?

Civil Actions are filed in the County Civil Division, but the Clerk's Office cannot help you with any
paperwork. Please consult your Attorney.


***Please understand that Judges, Judicial Assistants, Clerks of Court,
and Sheriff's Department employees CANNOT practice law or give you
legal advice. They can ONLY point out the existence of certain procedures,
but CANNOT tell you how to follow them or how effective they will be. ONLY
A LAWYER CAN GIVE YOU LEGAL ADVICE. You should talk with a lawyer
if you have any questions about your rights.


What are the fees for the County Civil cases?

Click here.

How do I search for a Civil case?

Click on Online Inquiry System at the top of the Site Navigation bar on the left side of this page.


Evictions - CC top
What if I have been issued an Eviction?

The Clerk's Office does not give legal advice regarding Evictions. If you have received a
Tenant Eviction Summons, please contact your attorney regarding how to file an Answer
and post rent.


How do I file a residential Tenant Eviction?

Evictions are governed by Florida Statute 83 and may be filed at the County Civil Division.


The Clerk's Office does not give legal advice regarding Evictions. You should contact your
attorney. However, you can purchase an information packet (for a small fee for copies),
including notice and complaint form from the Clerk.

  • Before you can file an Eviction, you must give one of the following proper
    written notices to the Tenant(s):

3 day notice for failing to pay rent

OR

15 day notice for termination


These days exclude the day of service, holidays and weekends. If the
Tenant fails to comply with the Notice, you may then file the Eviction.


  • When you file the Eviction, you will need:

Two copies of the 3 or 15 day notice that you gave the Tenant

AND

Two copies of the lease (if your agreement is in writing)

AND

Three self-addressed stamped envelopes.


What are the fees for an Eviction?

Click here.


Please note that there is an additional $40.00 fee per defendant for the Sheriff to serve the summons.
You must have cash or a separate money order or check made out to the Putnam County Sheriff's
Office.


What happens after the Tenant is served with the Eviction Notice?

The Tenant has five days after being served (this excludes day of service, holidays and weekends)
to respond, in writing, to the Court.

  • If the defendant fails to comply with the Evictions Summons within 5 days, the
    landlord can obtain a Motion for Default. Once the Default has been entered,
    the judge will then grant a Writ of Possession. There is an additional $70.00
    charge that you must pay to the Sheriff's Office for serving the writ.
  • If the defendant complies with the summons, a hearing may be scheduled and
    all parties will receive a Notice of Hearing by mail from the judge's office. The
    landlord will be required to appear in person for court unless represented by
    an attorney.

What happens if I file an Eviction and I don't show up to Court?

Your Eviction complaint will be dismissed. An attorney may always represent the owner in court
but an agent for the owner MAY NOT attend instead of the owner.


What is a Writ of Possession?

Writ of Possession is a directive issued by the Court instructing the Sheriff's Office to enforce
a court order for possession by taking possession of particular property and evicting any
persons from the premises. A notice to move within 24 hours is served at the residence.


How do I seek back rent?

When a complaint contains a claim for back rent and damages, the defendant has 20 days to
answer that part of the Eviction. After the landlord receives possession of the property and
determines what their damages are, they can file an Affidavit as to damages. This form can
be obtained from the Clerk's Office, County Civil Division. The landlord will mail a copy of the
completed form to the Tenant. The judge will schedule a court hearing and, after testimony,
determine if a judgment should be awarded. If you are awarded a judgment you may obtain
information on how to collect it here.


If my Tenant deposits rent into the Court Registry, how do I get the money?

Money deposited into the Court Registry can only be released with a court order. You can file
a motion and ask the judge to release that money from the Court Registry.


Small Claims - CC top
What is Small Claims Court?

Small Claims Court provides for the adjudication of civil disputes involving amounts of money or
value of property not exceeding $5,000.00. Any dispute involving money or property valued
above this amount is considered a Civil Action and falls under a completely different set of
rules set up by the Florida Small Claims Rules adopted by the Supreme Court of Florida. If you
are unsure of which rules govern your civil dispute, it would be to your advantage to consult
an Attorney.


How do I know if I have a Small Claims case?

Prior to filing a suit, the party contemplating the filing of a lawsuit should evaluate the claim to
be made. One way would be to ask yourself the following questions about your claim:

  • Is the claim for $5,000.00 or less?
  • Is the claim a valid legal claim?
  • Is there proof to back up the claim?
  • Is there evidence that the Court can truly consider?
  • Is the party my claim is against identifiable by full legal name, and complete address?
  • Have all avenues to settle this matter been exhausted?

If, after reading the above questions, you feel that you still have a doubt as to the validity of
your case, this is not the time to file a case. If you have no doubt that your case answers yes
to all of the above questions, a lawsuit may be properly filed.


Who can file a Small Claims case?

A Small Claims case may be filed by any individual or business entity. Minors must be
represented by a parent or legal guardian in order to sue. Likewise, if an incorporated
business plans to file a suit, it must be represented by an officer or authorized employee.


The person filing the Statement of Claim must sign it and include thereon his or her address
and telephone number, including area code. Furthermore, the names, addresses, and telephone
numbers of all persons who are parties to the lawsuit must be Stated in the Statement of Claim.


How do I file a small claims case (up to $5000)?

A case is commenced by filing a Statement of Claim, along with an appropriate fee, with the
Clerk of Courts, County Civil Division. While the County Civil forms package is available from
the Clerk's Office, assistance ONLY in the preparation of the forms is provided by the Clerk's
Office.


***Please understand that Judges, Judicial Assistants, Clerks of Court,
and Sheriff's Department employees CANNOT practice law or give you
legal advice. They can ONLY point out the existence of certain
procedures, but CANNOT tell you how to follow them or how effective
they will be. ONLY A LAWYER CAN GIVE YOU LEGAL ADVICE. You should
talk with a lawyer if you have any questions about your rights.


If your claim is based upon a written document, the written document must be attached to the
Statement of Claim.


When you file, you must bring with you at least two copies of any documents on which your
claim is based. Examples include, cancelled checks, invoices, contracts, or estimates. If you
are suing more than one person, bring one extra set of copies for each person being sued.
You must supply the correct name and address of the parties you wish to sue. If a company,
you must find out if this company is individually owned, a partnership or a corporation. For
corporate information you may check with the Florida Department of State, Division of
Corporations
. For company information you may check with the Occupational Licensing
division in the city or county where the business is located. It is important to sue the proper
party or entity as a judgment against a fictitious name could be uncollectible.


What are the fees for filing a Small Claims Case?

Click here


Can I file my claim in another county?

In order to properly file a Statement of Claim, the person filing the claim (the Plaintiff), must do
so in the proper county. In most cases, the Plaintiff may properly file a Statement of Claim in a
county:

  • Where the contract was entered into.
  • If the suit is on an unsecured promissory note, where the note was signed.
  • If the suit is to recover property or foreclose a lien, where the property is located.
  • Where the event occurred that gave rise to the suit.
  • Where any one of the defendants resides.

If the party being sued (the Defendant), believes the Statement of Claim was filed in the wrong
county, the Defendant may request that the case be transferred to the county which he
believes is proper. If the case has to be transferred, the party who initially filed in the wrong county
will have to pay a new filing fee.


Who do I name as the party to my suit?

The Plaintiff must name the proper party as a Defendant. If the Defendant:

  • is an individual, the Plaintiff should determine the person's full legal name and any
    aliases prior to filing the lawsuit.
  • is a business, the Plaintiff must determine if the business is a corporation, a
    partnership or a sole proprietorship. The corporate status of any corporation
    legitimately doing business in the State of Florida can be determined by contacting
    the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations.

If the business is:

  • a corporation, the corporation should be named as a Defendant, NOT its officers.
  • either a partnership or a sole proprietorship, the entity AND the individuals should
    be named as Defendants.
What happens after I file?

After the Statement of Claim is filed, the Plaintiff must ensure that the Defendant receives a
copy of the Statement of Claim. The procedure for informing the Defendant of the pending
action is called service of process.

  • Service of process may be by delivery of the Statement of Claim to the Defendant by a
    representative of the appropriate Sheriff's Office.
  • The Plaintiff may also complete service of process upon a Florida Resident by certified
    mail. However, the Defendant or someone authorized to receive mail at the
    Defendant's residence or place of business must sign the receipt for the mail. If they
    have any idea of the case being filed, they may refuse the certified mail, and this
    constitutes non-service. For corporate entities, the addressee should be the
    registered agent of the corporation.

A notice to appear is attached to, and served with, the Statement of Claim. This notice informs
the Defendant of the time, date, and place of the pre-trial conference.


What is a pre-trial conference?

On this appointed day, the Plaintiff and the Defendant are to appear before the Court in order to
discuss the case. At this conference, the Court will determine if there are any contested
issues of fact.

  • If there are contested issues of fact, the case will be referred to mediation in an effort
    to aid the parties in settling the case. Mediators will be present at the pre-trial
    conference.
  • If mediation is not successful, the mediator will send the parties back to the Judge who
    will narrow the factual issues to be resolved at trial and settle any legal issues which
    are subject to determination at the pre-trial.
  • If the case is not settled at this conference, the Court will set a time, date, and place
    for the trial.

The Plaintiff and Defendant do not bring witnesses to the pre-trial conference.


What if I miss the pre-trial conference trial date?

Failure to attend either the pre-trial conference or the trial can result in dire consequences
for the party failing to attend.


If the Plaintiff fails to attend, the case can be dismissed.


If the Defendant fails to attend, the Plaintiff is entitled to a default and the Plaintiff prevails.


I am being sued! Can I do anything besides just go to Court?

In addition to just appearing at the appointed time, the Defendant may also file documents with
the Court. These include, but are not limited to, a motion to dismiss, an answer, an affirmative
defense, a counterclaim, and a third-party complaint.


An answer is simply an admission or denial of the claims made by the Plaintiff. The other
documents, called pleadings, are discussed in more detail below. Copies of all pleadings are
required to be served on the other party or the party's Attorney. This subsequent service may
be accomplished by regular mail.


Motions to Dismiss

A motion to dismiss attempts to demonstrate to the Court why the Plaintiff should not be
allowed to continue, regardless of the truth of the Plaintiff's claim. The following are examples
of basic motions to dismiss and simple explanations of these motions:

  • Lack of Jurisdiction over the subject matter - the action is not properly filed in small
    claims Court because it involves more than $5,000.00 or involves an equitable claim
    (i.e. a divorce claim).
  • Improper Venue - the complaint is filed in the wrong county.
  • Insufficiency of Process - the summons was not served on the Defendant
    properly.
  • Failure to Join Indispensable Parties - the complaint does not seek damages
    from any other party who should be liable along with the Defendant if the Plaintiff is
    successful.

Affirmative Defenses

Affirmative defenses, unlike other defenses, seek to avoid liability by asserting a legal excuse
as to why the Plaintiff would not be awarded any damages based on the clam. Some
examples of affirmative defenses are:

  • Accord and Satisfaction - the Defendant has paid or satisfied the amount due or
    has paid a mutually agreed upon settlement.
  • Failure of Consideration - the Defendant agreed to pay the Plaintiff if the Plaintiff
    performed a service for the Defendant; however, the Plaintiff's performance was
    so inferior that the Defendant should not be liable to the Plaintiff for payment.
  • Statute of Limitations - the Plaintiff failed to file the Statement of Claim by the time
    required by law. For a more detailed explanation of the Statue of Limitations, consult
    Chapter 95 of the Florida Statutes.

Counterclaims

A counterclaim is as a lawsuit which the Defendant files against the Plaintiff after he is served
with the Plaintiff's lawsuit. Counterclaims fall into two (2) categories, compulsory and
permissive. To be compulsory, the counterclaim must be based upon the incident which is
the subject of the Plaintiff's suit. Permissive counterclaims are not based upon the incident. A
Defendant wishing to file a counterclaim must do so not less than five days prior to the
appearance date or such time as the Court designates, or it is deemed to be abandoned.


Third-Party Complaints

Third party complaints are filed with the permission of the Court when the Defendant feels that
another party should be responsible for the amount of damage claimed by the Plaintiff. If a
Defendant wishes to file a third-party complaint, he must request permission of the Court at the
pre-trial conference. If the Court allows the filing of a third-party complaint, the Court will set a
time for filing and schedule another pre-trial conference. Likewise, the Plaintiff may request
leave of Court to file a third-party complaint in response to any counterclaim made by the
Defendant.


Discovery

Parties to any lawsuit should be aware that they may be subjected to discovery prior to trial.
Discovery is an attempt by a party to gain information about the strength of the opposing
party's position. Although generally not allowed in Small Claims cases with parties not
represented by an Attorney, discovery is nonetheless possible in certain circumstances.
Those wishing to gain more information on discovery as it relates to Small Claims should
consult Rule 7.020(b), Florida Small Claims Rules.


Voluntary Dismissal

The Plaintiff in a Small Claims case may end the lawsuit by voluntarily dismissing the suit. In
order to properly do this, property must not have been seized, nor may property be in the
custody of the Courts, and the Plaintiff must inform the Defendant and the Clerk of the Court of
the dismissal prior to the trial date; or the parties must enter into joint stipulation for dismissal
and:

  • the Plaintiff must inform the Defendant and the Clerk of the Court of the dismissal prior
    to the trial date; or
  • the parties must enter into joint stipulation for dismissal.

Any dismissal by the above methods shall be without prejudice, unless otherwise requested
by the Plaintiff or stipulated to by the parties. The "without prejudice" designation allows the
lawsuit to be re-filed even though it may allege the exact grounds as the previously dismissed
case. However, if a Plaintiff chooses to again dismiss a lawsuit which had previously been
voluntarily dismissed, the second dismissal will bar subsequent attempts to re-file. No other
dismissals are allowed except by order of the Court. Furthermore, a lawsuit in which a
counterclaim has been filed will not be dismissed over the counterclaimant's objections unless
the counterclaim is allowed to go forward as an independent lawsuit.


Settlement

Cases may also fail to reach the trial stage due to settlement. The parties may agree to settle
the case at any stage of the proceedings, and in most cases are encouraged to do so at the
pre-trial conference. If the case is settled, the Plaintiff must notify the Clerk of the Court. The
settlement may bring about a dismissal or continuance, the continuance being based upon the
payment or performance by a party. When a settlement is agreed upon at the pre-trial
conference, both parties enter into a written agreement called a Stipulation. Failure of the
Defendant to comply with a Stipulation will result in a final judgment being entered upon the
filing of an affidavit of noncompliance by the Plaintiff and service by mail of a copy upon the
Defendant.


How do I collect a Small Claims judgment?
If someone has my property and will not release it to me, what can I do?

You may be able to file a replevin action at the Clerk's office.


What is a replevin?

Replevin is a civil action to recover your personal property that another person refuses to return.
You must prove a legal right to the possession of the property, such as ownership of it, and that
the defendant has wrongful possession of the property. A replevin action may be filed to recover
certain stolen property that is in the possession of a "second hand dealer" such as a pawn shop,
consignment shop, or garage sale operator. It may also be for return of stolen property from a
secondary metals recycler.


More information on replevin actions can be found in Chapter 78, Florida Statutes.


What do I need to file a replevin?

You will need three copies of the following:

  • Proof of ownership
  • Complete description of the property
  • Documentation showing the value of the property


How much does it cost to file a replevin?

Click here.


What forms of payment do you accept for the filing fee or Sheriff's fee?

Generally, the Clerk's Office accepts cash, personal check, Mastercard, and Visa for the payment of
filing fees. However, the Sheriff's fee must be paid using cash or a separate check or money order
payable to the "Putnam County Sheriff's Office".


What happens once I file the replevin?

Your case is set for a hearing before a judge. An Order to Show Cause is issued and served on the
Defendant, notifying him/her of the action and the date of the hearing. You will also be notified of
the hearing date.


What happens at the hearing?

The Judge will review the evidence, hear testimony, and make a determination as to whether the
property should be returned to you (the Plaintiff) or if the property should remain in the possession
of the Defendant.


What happens if the Judge orders my property to be returned to me?

If the Judge orders that the property should be returned to you and the Defendant does not willingly
return the property, you will need to request that the Writ of Replevin be issued and served on the
Defendant. The Sheriff will then put you in possession of the property.


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